Murray Urges President Bush, Republicans to Support Foreclosure Prevention Act

Mar 31 2008

With HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson resigning, Murray says President has an opportunity to make American families a priority

Mr. President, over the last year, Americans across the country have watched as our economy has faltered.  And for far too many families the economic downturn has hit home in the form of foreclosure.

This is a time when we badly need a strong and effective response from the Administration – led in part by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  But instead of helping the millions of families struggling to stay above water, HUD has been almost constantly distracted by the ethical questions facing its Secretary, Alphonso Jackson.

Mr. President, 10 days ago, I felt the problem had reached a breaking point – so I called for Secretary Jackson’s resignation.  Today, Mr. Jackson announced that he has decided to move on.  And President Bush must now nominate a new Housing Secretary with the experience and credibility to attack this crisis rather than hide from it.  

I hope this development is a sign that the Administration wants to make the needs of American families a priority.  I hope it’s a sign that the Administration wants to work with Congress on a meaningful response to the crisis that has swept this nation.  And I hope President Bush will change his position and support our efforts to pass legislation that will help millions of families facing foreclosure.

Foreclosure Prevention Act

Mr. President, this week, we will give President Bush and the Republican Senate that chance again, as we take up the Foreclosure Prevention Act for the second time this year.

Until now, the other side of the aisle has been more responsive to Wall Street than to Main Street.  But I hope that my colleagues who were home over the break listened to the concerns of their constituents and have returned ready to work to address our nation’s housing crisis.

And, Mr. President, this truly is a crisis.  So I want to spend a few minutes talking about why we must take action now.

2 Million Families Face Foreclosure This Year

Mr. President, as many as 2 million families could lose their homes to foreclosure this year.  Each foreclosure represents a family whose dream of a comfortable home and a secure future has been dashed.

And each foreclosure weakens the foundation of our communities.  Foreclosures have left our neighborhoods full of vacant homes.  Foreclosures leave families distressed and troubled.  Communities are already reporting higher crime rates as a result of the crisis.  And state and local governments are seeing their tax revenues drop even as their needs are piling up.

We can help prevent this by investing in our communities and providing support for families who risk losing everything  

The Foreclosure Prevention Act would make changes in bankruptcy law so that more financially-troubled families could keep their homes.  It would change lending laws to prevent more borrowers from accepting terms they don’t understand and can’t afford.  And it would provide an additional $200 million to help housing counselors continue to reach out to families at risk of foreclosure.


Mr. President, I want to focus on this last point, because it is extremely important.  Too many homeowners don’t know they can get help when they get behind on their mortgages.  Too many don’t make contact with their lender when they miss their first payment.  Too many are intimidated – or they’re distrustful.

The Foreclosure Prevention Act would give counseling agencies the resources to reach out and let borrowers know they have options.  Counseling can help families negotiate with their lenders, re-adjust their payments, or learn how to budget their expenses better.

Mr. President, last month, I had the opportunity to meet a single mother from Ohio who had fallen on hard times, which in turn led her to fall behind on her mortgage.  Luckily – with housing counseling, made possible by NeighborWorks America – she and her children were able to stay in their home.

She explained that when she got behind, she was overwhelmed.  She told me she didn’t know what to do.  She said, “This isn’t something they teach you in school.”

Our economic health depends on Americans having a safe and stable place to live and raise their families.  We want every family to know that help is out there.  The Foreclosure Prevention Act would help make sure that families – who risk losing everything – get the help they need before it’s too late.

Across this country, people are worried about whether they’ll be able to keep their homes, about whether their job will be eliminated, and about how they will pay for health care when they – or their children – get sick.

These are real families.  And these are real communities in need of help.

Mr. President, we need to pass this reform immediately.  Americans want action.  We wanted to pass this bill last month, but Republicans blocked our efforts.

So I hope President Bush and my Republican colleagues will support our efforts now.  I hope they’ll stand with us and pass meaningful reform that will help homeowners keep their homes, give families hope, and make our communities strong again.